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How Large Chocolate Companies and Smaller Chocolatiers Differentiate Themselves in Advertisements

The chocolate industry is evolving. Though major companies like Hershey and Mars have dominated it for its entire existence, new artisan or boutique chocolatiers are appearing, ready to challenge them for supremacy. The idea of small, local competition is nothing new for the behemoths, who had to combat independent grocers earlier in the 20th century. These new companies are more legitimate than an independent grocer, though. Some, like Taza, experience enough success that they grow into fairly large companies, and others, though they may remain small, still carry a distinct air of legitimacy.

These two sectors are quite different in scale, so how do they differentiate themselves in terms of how they advertise themselves to customers? Historian Emma Robertson notes that, “chocolate has long-standing associations with female sexuality” and discusses how this manifests itself in chocolate marketing in her book, Chocolate Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History (Robertson, 1-3). Though these sexualized undertones are strong throughout the chocolate industry and sometimes become painfully explicit in advertising, I will not focus on them here. Instead, I will be concerned with how the two sectors of companies differentiate themselves from each other in how they discuss and market their products. My two main examples will be Jacques Torres Chocolate and two subsidiaries of Mars, Dove and Galaxy. On the whole, the Jacques Torres material focuses on the quality of the product and the personality of Torres, while the Mars subsidiaries focus on chocolate’s larger connotations and its idealized worlds, which represents an evolution in the larger cultural discussion about chocolate in advertisements.

Historically, these two subsets of the chocolate industry have had to jointly combat the stigma of adulteration. Chocolate contains a multitude of ingredients, which, dating back to Cadbury in 1869, have a long history of being adulterated to cut costs. In her article “Blame Candy” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Samira Kawash reports that, “candy makers were suspected of cutting corners… [and] boosting the bottom line by adding fillers like plaster or sawdust…, replacing chocolate with wax or nuts with cardboard, employing toxic dyes to create eye-catching colors” (Kawash). Though large companies like Cadbury were often implicated, this stigma was attached to all chocolate, including chocolate made by independent producers. One newspaper ad from the early 1900’s produced by Mars was entitled “You’ll Never Sell Her Cheap Candy Again” and introduced a short vignette with parents blaming their daughter’s stomach ache on cheap candy purchased at the local corner store, as opposed to the fine Mars products that “give you more quality” (Proquest Database). The branding war between large companies and small, independent producers, then, is nothing new.

Not only did small grocers and large companies compete over who would be stuck with chocolate’s negative associations, they also have differentiated themselves in their advertising for as long as chocolate has been mass produced. In their book Chocolate: History, Culture and Heritage, Louis Evan Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro note that in the late 1800’s, chocolate “manufacturers would supply retail merchants with large chromos [small cards with designs and advertisements on them] to stimulate sales.” While, “Victorian sentimentality prevailed” with larger chocolate companies’ ornate designs, the authors note that, “cards for grocers were much more business-like,” and often just listed prices or products (Grivetti & Shapiro, 185-7). This difference in marketing was probably merely one of necessity, as the smaller grocers could not afford the ornate designs of the larger companies. The underlying trend, however, of smaller chocolatiers focusing on their product exclusively and bigger companies worrying more about its connotations and ancillary benefits, persists to this day.

In 2016, the two groups wage a similar war, one that is played out online and on television as opposed to in newspapers. On Jacques Torres’s website, the company asserts itself as a provider of high quality, artisan, hand-crafted chocolate. The most subtle way it does this is through its name. Jacques Torres, nicknamed “Mr. Chocolate” is a relatively famous personality, but Torres’ name gives the company clout even independent of his reputation. The fact that the company is named after a specific person makes the customer feel as though they are personally interacting with Torres every time they engage with his company. It adds a level of personality and specificity that a big company cannot match. The “About Us” section goes on to detail Torres’s many accomplishments in his culinary career, granting him an air of absolute legitimacy. Nothing Mars puts out can compete with something personally crafted by an award-winning French chef. The section goes on to write that, “Jacques Torres Chocolate is proud to produce real food bursting with real flavor made without taking any shortcuts or adding any preservatives, extracts or ‘essences.'” Here, the company is appealing to the fraught history of chocolate, and assuring potential customers that they have no part of that. Jacques, it seems, is above such tricks.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 10.44.29 PMhttp://www.mrchocolate.com/experience/

Other parts of the website underscore this point. In the picture above, Torres appears to be in touch with nature, and therefore healthy. The About Us section does claim, after all, that Torres’ chocolate is “better for you”. Though it does not elaborate on exactly what the chocolate is better than, any discerning chocolate customer may easily guess. The section closes with the words, “Real. Authentic. Original.” All of these words are variations on the same idea, which is that Jacques Torres chocolate creates a personal connection with the customer, and leverages that connection to gain legitimacy.

The video appearing prominently on the site achieves a similar effect.

This video is something called “A Taste of The Terminal”, and was produced by Grand Central Terminal. In its decision to include it in their website’s promotional material, though, the company elaborates upon the personableness and legitimacy that it has built in its “About Us” section. First, Jacques seems eminently likable. He is very nice to all whom he interacts with, posing for pictures and doing fist bumps with random strangers. The viewer wishes that he or she could have been in the station when he was handing out his crepe samples. Perhaps oddly, though, the video does not discuss chocolate much. The main focus, one could argue, is crepes. Here again, though, the company has shrewdly positioned Jacques as a culinary authority, a master of all. In establishing his ability as a maker of crepes, the video has established his ability as a chef overall, which makes him seem even more legitimate to a customer. Through all of his company’s promotional materials, Jacques Torres appears as a world-renowned pastry chef, who has come to personally cater to his customers’ needs.

Mars company, on the other hand, cannot quite compete with Jacques on a personal level. What it can do, is emphasize certain connotations about its products and those that eat them.

According to an article in the advertising journal The Spot, this advertisement was meant to “give the brand a fresh look, and spur more everyday purchases by customers” (Nudd, The Spot). The advertisement accomplishes this goal by using actors that appear more normal and even quirky. These are not the “classically” beautiful models from stereotypical perfume or chocolate commercials. The decision to film the advertisement as a stop-motion movie increases the quirkiness of the environment, and makes the magical enhancement of the environment by the characters seem more normal. The advertisement ties in these environmental expansions by telling the viewers, “It’s always better when there’s a little more to love”, connecting the bigger bar with the bigger landscape features. This advertisement is working on a much more implicit scale than the Jacques Torres promotional material, though. Whereas Torres touts the craftsmanship of the product and the legitimacy of the chef, Dove focuses on an idealized vision of the world in which its chocolate exists. If you want to live in that world, then you want to eat Dove chocolate.

The vision of an idealized world shines through even more clearly in this Galaxy advertisement, which Dove also used a shortened version of in America. The actress depicted is Audrey Hepburn, who has been CGI’ed into the scene. This detail already sets up the world as a sort of idealized fantasy-land, as Hepburn, long dead, could not possibly appear in a new advertisement–and yet, there she is. Inspired by her Galaxy bar, Hepburn leaves her bus and gets into the back of a man’s car and speeds away from a generic quaint European town into a generic quaint European countryside. The slow fade-in of the song, which is “Moon River”, a song from one of Hepburn’s most famous films, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, increases the sentimentality, as non-diagetic sound gradually overpowers diagetic sound. In this fantasy-land, Galaxy chocolate reins supreme. It has driven Hepburn to act boldly and run away with the man of her dreams (we may assume). People who would like a window into such a world or perhaps to be like Hepburn must eat Galaxy chocolate in order to attain such dreams.

The central difference between the Dove and Galaxy advertisements and the promotional material for Jacques Torres is that the Jacques Torres material focuses on the quality of the product and the Mars subsidiaries focus on its connotations. It seems that now, with chocolate under fire as an unhealthy food, the smaller artisans are attacking that stigma head on, while the larger companies are skirting it entirely and trying to reframe the conversation around not what chocolate contains, but, rather, what it means. Mars’ side-stepping of the debate positions it not so much as a food company, but as a lifestyle company. If you want to eat well, eat Jacques Torres. If you want to live well, eat Dove and Galaxy.

 

Works Cited:

Scholarly Sources:

Kawash, Samira. “Blame Candy.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 60.08 (2013). Biography in Context. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History

Grivetti, Louis, and Howard-Yana Shapiro. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. Print.
Nudd, T. (2012, Apr). The spot: Heaven on earth. Adweek, 53, 11. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1008667105?accountid=11311.

Multimedia Sources:

“A Taste of the Terminal: Jacques Torres” from Youtube

“Dove Chocolate Bar Ad_ More To Love” from Youtube

“Audrey Hepburn: Galaxy Chocolate Commercial” from Youtube

“Mr. Chocolate: Experiences” http://www.mrchocolate.com/experience/

“Mr. Chocolate: About Us” http://www.mrchocolate.com/about-us/

“Display Ad 62–No Title”. New York Herald Tribune (1926-1962); Oct 20, 1933; Proquest Historical Newspapers: New York Tribune/Herald Tribune

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THE FUTURE OF CHOCOLATE: HOW CLIMATE CHANGE WILL AFFECT CACAO FARMERS IN WESTERN AFRICA

The Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food course ended with a very interesting question: What is the future of chocolate? We would like to think that chocolate has a future, especially in the it-should-always-be-available-for-my-consumption sense, but if you have ever really wondered about the future of chocolate, this report might shed some light on the long-term sustainability of cacao and the livelihood of farmers who do their best to meet the growing demand in the age of global warming and projected climate change.

Note: Cacao and cocoa will be used interchangeably for the purposes of this report.

Introduction

It is probably the most uncontested fact about cacao: Africa is its major supplier. Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana alone produce over 50% of the world’s cacao. When the nations of Nigeria and Cameroon are included in this unbalanced equation, the total contribution to cacao production stands at 70% (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); Schmitz & Shapiro, 2012; Barometer Consortium; Laderach, Martinez-Valle, Schroth, & Castro, 2013). In other words, there is a lot of chocolate at stake in Africa! And yet, the “entire African continent is the least studied region in terms of ecosystem dynamics and climate variability” (Anyah & Qiu, 2012, p.347). This is even after projections and the Global Climate Model (GCM) predict Africa to be in a very precarious position following extreme weather patterns, including long-term droughts (IPCC). This is especially troubling considering that the majority of Africa’s crops are rain-fed (Anyah et al., 2012). Connolly, Boutin, and Smit (2015) describe a 20-50% drop in cacao yield by 2050. While we cannot control the weather or be certain about cacao yield predictions, researchers have offered various solutions to buffer some of the impacts from climate change and global warming. This report will present some of these solutions and highlight a case study in Bahia, Brazil, where a resurgence in cacao production is occurring-this, after having experienced a crippling blow. The spotlight needs to be on Africa, especially its biggest cacao-producing countries and states, to ensure the future of cacao, its farmers, and ultimately chocolate.

Western Africa: An agriculture-based economy

According to Hamzat, Olaiya, Sanusi, & Adedeji (2006), the survival of cacao in West Africa up till now is entirely due to the Forastero Amazon strain introduced by Posnette (a plant pathologist credited with saving the West African cocoa industry)* and the West African Cocoa Research Institute (WASRI) in the mid-20th century (p.18). One of the major issues that arise from an agriculture-based economy are pests and diseases which can devastate crops. Black Pod Disease and Cocoa Swollen Shoot Disease (CSSV) are the two prominent diseases affecting the cacao crop in western Africa (Hamzat et al., 2006). Farm-maintenance management practices have also been known to inadvertently attract pests (i.e. brown and black cocoa mirids). It might seem like a terrible paradox, but food scarcity is also a major problem in an agriculture-based economy like western Africa’s, considering that “cocoa occupies 2.4 million hectares in Cote d’Ivoire and 1.5 million in Ghana, more than in any other country in the world” (Laderach et al., 2013, p.842). Farmers in this region usually do not combine and/or rotate crops and are left without food supply, detrimentally affecting their nutritional intake (Schmitz et al., 2012). The fact that most cacao farmers are producing on a small-scale also comes into play: in Nigeria, small holdings of farmers account for 60% of Nigeria’s total (cacao) output. Most of these farmers are in remote, rural areas and do not have access to the best seedlings or the equipment/infrastructure needed to produce higher, better quality yield (Hamzat et al., 2006). According to Hamzat et al. (2006), these farmers have a difficult time obtaining credit to make the necessary improvements. This might not appear to be a deal breaker considering that most small cacao farmers have been in business for years without high-tech machinery assisting them, but Schmitz & Shapiro (2012) state that modern farming techniques can make a drastic difference; at least 1,000 kilograms per hectare or more. At the same time, the next generation of would-be (cacao) farmers are leaving the rural areas en masse (Hamzat et al., 2006). The rural-to-urban migration is largely influenced by the fluctuating price of cocoa and the fact that cocoa is very labor intensive and the crop itself is fickle and susceptible to disease (Hamzat et al., 2006). This situation results in an aging farmer population who are less willing to adapt their farming techniques to produce more cacao and are looking to leaving the cacao industry altogether. West Africa’s history with cacao is not particularly rosy either- the use of child slave labor uncovered as late as 2000’s, has blacklisted the region.

Black Pod Disease.jpg Black Pod Disease

Photo Credit: Schmitz, H. & Shapiro, H.Y. (2012). 

Africa will also have to contend with a projected population boom (Miller, Waha, Bondeau, Heinke (2014). This may interrupt the cacao industry in that farmers will be forced to grow food, rather than their cash crop. The surge in population might also alter farming completely in that water will become an even more precious resource not to be wasted on cacao farms. Together, these social, economic, and technical issues will be exacerbated with the addition of above-average climate change for the region in the 21st century.

*To read more about Dr. A.F. Posnette, visit http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1467914/Peter-Posnette.html

Rising demand and the major chocolate actors in West African

The sustainability of cacao is a topic at the forefront of Big Chocolate, namely Mars and Hershey. Schmitz & Shapiro (2012), scientists working on behalf of Mars, quantify the expected increase in world-wide chocolate demand: “currently, farmers produce approximately 3.7 million metric tons of cocoa, where expected demand is said to reach over 4 million metric tons of cocoa by 2020 (p.62-63). Due in part to this pressing timeline, Mars has connected with scientists, universities, the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and even the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to essentially “save” chocolate. Mars and Hershey have both committed to buying 100% of their cacao supply from farms using sustainable practices by 2020. To qualify “sustainable,” Mars and Hershey have partnered with The Fair Trade Foundation. Of course, there are many equity (and other) issues surrounding Fair Trade (see Prof. Martin’s April 6, 2016 lecture). For the past 50 years, Hershey has bought the bulk of their cacao from Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire (Hershey Cocoa Sustainability Strategy). These big chocolate corporations have provided funding to organizations like Fair Trade to “help cocoa farmers improve their processes, yield, and profits” (DesMarais, 2014). While cocoa farmers in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are benefitting from the help extended to them by Big Chocolate, Hershey and Mars have plenty to lose if the cocoa crop is neglected in this region, specifically in terms of supply. Mars and Hershey (among other Big Five chocolate actors) have been vying the Chinese market for the last few years (Allen, 2009), and now, the demand from these new markets has presented more urgency regarding the sustainability of cacao in western Africa.

Cocoabarometer2015_4.png

Credit: Cocoa Barometer 2015

Is cacao’s future in the hands of science?

The World Cocoa Foundation estimates that 30-40% of the cacao crop is lost to pests and disease. With a race against time, scientists and researchers have been engineering a new super breed of cacao. With a projected rise in temperature by 2’C (or approximately 35’F) in western Africa, scientists are in search of a drought-tolerant, disease-immune cacao strain. So far, Mars and the USDA have sequenced the cacao genome in an attempt to breed hardier trees (Schmitz & Shapiro, 2012, p. 63). Critics of this super breed are worried about the flavor; CCN51, is said to be resistant to witches’ broom, but according to certain palettes (i.e. The C-spot), this breed is described as “weak basal cocoa with thin fruit overlay; lead and wood shavings; astringent and acidic pulp; quite bitter” (Schatzker, 2014). If we can appreciate anything about chocolate, it is its flavor profile and depth, making the problem of taste all the more relevant. Schatzker (2014) suggests that Big Chocolate might not be so concerned with flavor given that they can use fillers to fortify their chocolate (e.g. vegetable fat, milk, vanilla, flavor chemicals). So, to answer the question if cacao’s future is in the hands of science-certainly Big Chocolate seems to think so.

Global Efforts to boost cacao crops_scientific american

Credit: Schmitz, H. & Shapiro, H.Y. (2012). 

If the history of the coffee crop can teach us anything, however, it is that science does not always offer the best alternative. Arabica coffee, like the cacao tree, grows best under shade (they are understory trees), but when a hybrid (that could tolerate the sun) was introduced to boost the coffee bean yield, many environmental issues arose, among these: The use of herbicides and fertilizer (which led to contamination of groundwater), deforestation, and the trees having to be replaced more often (Craves, 2006).

To summarize what climate experts predict will happen by mid-century (Miller et al., 2014, p.2507):

Freshwater availability will decrease.

Flooding probability will increase.

Dry periods will increase.

Irrigation water required will increase.

Crop yield will decrease.

Scientists, at times working for Big Chocolate, hope to address these climate issues by breeding superior genotypes of Theobroma cacao. It is in the interest of the Big Five to keep up research efforts in western Africa as most of their cacao comes from this region. Again, for the past fifty years or so, Hershey and Mars have benefitted from the region, amassing fortunes; it is time they give back to the land and people that have given up so much. But keeping pace with increased demand in chocolate is not just their problem. Indeed, there are others working on behalf of chocolate. The International Group for the Genetic Improvement of Cocoa (INGENIC) has sprouted out of concern for the future of cacao and were established to collaborate and coordinate on cocoa breeding and management of germplasm resources (INGENIC). Still others, like members of the Cocoa Barometer Organization, are turning to raising awareness and education to reach consumers and farmers alike. Small-scale farmers in western Africa, already experiencing the impacts of climate change, seek some certainty for their very uncertain future, whether in the form of science or other.

Case Study: Bahia, Brazil and traditional farming

Brazilian cacao farmers call it “cabruca.” It is their traditional method of farming cacao-using the shade of other food crop and timber trees, they have maximized the use of the land. Another name for this form of farming is known as mixed agroforestry systems. This method of farming is known to improve the water-holding capacity of the trees (Schmitz & Shapiro, 2012). It is sustainable and environmentally-friendly because 1. It provides corridors for wildlife increasing biodiversity; 2. The trees and surrounding plants capture more carbon; 3. It generally requires less water; and 4. More of the (dwindling) forest is preserved (Sambuichi, Vidal, Piasentin, Jardim, Viana, Menezes, Mello, Ahnert & Baligar, 2012; Schroth, Faria, Araujo, Bede, Van Bael, Cassano, Oliveira, & Delabie, 2011). Bahia is also currently experimenting with a second method: planting cacao trees at higher altitudes, out of pests’ normal range (Schmitz & Shapiro, 2012). In the 1980’s, this region of Brazil experienced a devastating blow to their prized cacao crop-a reduction of 80% in cacao yield-collapsing the cacao economy (Schmitz & Shapiro, 2012). Limited genetic variation led to a near wipeout of cacao trees in the area (most succumbed to witches’ broom). Today, Bahia, has reemerged as a contender in the cacao industry and is recognized for its flavorful cacao beans. In light of global warming, researchers have begun to explore the potential “lessons-learned” from Bahia that could be applied to western Africa; however, most agree that site-specific strategies are needed.

VC_cabrucaa_20150526_0640321-e1438163980647

Cabruca Farming

Photo Credit: eCacaos

Conclusion

Although this blog attempted to touch on the current situation regarding cacao in West Africa and cover a wide range of potential climate change scenarios projected for this region, there are probably more questions than answers. In obtaining feedback for this paper, there was a comment about global warming and climate change involving a lot of speculation. And in truth, no one can really know the impacts climate change will bring. What we can stand firm on is the fact that climate change will happen. In other words, it is not a question of if, but when. West Africa has become a living lab of sorts, but a question one might have about cacao coming from this specific region may involve the major chocolate buyers. Should we care about Big Chocolate like Hershey and Mars running out of supply? The simple answer is yes. The livelihoods of so many farmers depend on corporations like Mars to buy their product, and if organizations like Fair Trade can lead the sustainability efforts, farmers will benefit. The places cacao is sourced from may change-according to NOAA cacao can only grow within 20’ north and south of the equator today, but in the future, higher altitudes may be called for-but terroir and consistent quality cacao will always be a good selling point. It is in everyone’s best interested to be invested in the future of chocolate, cacao farmers, and the West African region in particular. Finally, it was important to introduce the Bahia case study to demonstrate how one region, in the midst of global warming projections and a near wipeout under the belts, are still finding ways to minimize their ecological footprint. We do not have to wait for 2020 or 2050 to arrive, the future of chocolate is now.

Works Cited

A.F. “Peter” Posnette. Telegraph online. Accessed from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1467914/Peter-Posnette.html

Allen, L.L. (2009). Chocolate fortunes: The battle for the hearts, minds, and wallets of China’s consumers. New York: AMACOM.

Anti-Slavery International (2004). The Cocoa Industry in West Africa: A history of exploitation.

Anyah, R.O. & Qiu, W. (2012). Characteristic 20th and 21st century precipitation and temperature patterns and changes over the Greater Horn of Africa. International Journal of Climatology, 32.

Cocoa Barometer 2015. Accessed from: http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Home.html

Connolly-Boutin, L., & Smit, B. (2016). Climate change, food security, and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa. Regional Environmental Change, 16.

Craves, J. (2006, February 5). The problems with sun coffee. Accessed from: http://www.coffeehabitat.com/2006/02/the_problems_wi/

DesMarais,C. (2014, March 20). Hershey’s and Mars sweeten market for West African cocoa farmers. Greenbiz online. Accessed from: https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/03/20/hersheys-mars-sweeten-market-cocoa-farmers

Hamzat, R.A., Olaiya, A.O., Sanusi, R.A., & Adedeji, A.R. (2006). State of cocoa growing, quality and research in Nigeria: Need for intervention. Presented at The Biannual Partnership Programme of the World Cocoa Foundation.

Hershey’s Cocoa Sustainability Strategy. Accessed from: https://www.thehersheycompany.com/en_us/responsibility/good-business/creating-goodness/cocoa-sustainability.html

INGENIC. Accessed from: http://www.incocoa.org/ingenic/

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate Change 2013, Chapter 14. Accessed from: http://www.cocoabarometer.org/Home.html

Laderach, P., Martinez-Valle, A., Schroth, G., & Castro, N. (2012). Predicting the future climatic suitability for cocoa farming of the world’s leading producer countries, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. Climatic Change, 119.

Mars Sustainability Strategy. Accessed from: http://cocoasustainability.com/2015/02/mars-and-fairtrade-extend-partnership-to-certify-cocoa-for-mars-bars/

Muller, C., Waha, K. Bondeau, A. & Heinke, J. (2014). Hotspots of climate change impacts in sub-Saharan Africa and implications for adaptation and development. Global Change Biology, 20.

NOAA. Climate and chocolate. Accessed from: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-and/climate-chocolate

Sambuichi, R. H. R., Vidal, D.B., Piasentin, F.B., Jardim, J.G., Viana, T.G., Menezes, A.A., Mello, D.L.N., Ahnert, D. & Baligar, V.C. (2012). Cabruca agroforests in southern Bahia, Brazil: Tree component, management practices and tree species conservation. Biodiversity Conservation, 21.

Schatzer, M. (2014, November 14). To save chocolate, scientists develop new breeds of cacao. Bloomberg Markets online. Accessed from: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-11-14/to-save-chocolate-scientists-develop-new-breeds-of-cacao

Schmitz, H. & Shapiro, H.Y. (2012). The future of chocolate. Scientific American.

Schroth, G., Faria, D., Araujo, M., Bede, L., Van Bael, S. A., Cassano, C.R., Oliveira, L.C., & Delabie, J.H.C. (2010). Conservation in tropical landscape mosaics: The case of the cacao landscape of southern Bahia, Brazil. Biodiversity Conservation, 20.

Silberner, J. (2007, November 19). How chocolate can save the planet. NPR online. Accessed from: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16354380

World Cocoa Foundation (WCF). Accessed from: http://www.worldcocoafoundation.org/category/knowledge-center/manuals/

 

 

The Public Fight Over Chocolate Purity

Chocolate and sugar consumption were both generally trending upwards as the 20th century began, and attitudes about both goods were in flux. People were obsessed with pseudo-scientific categorization of their foods, in both moral and Humoral schemes. Chocolate and sugar, relatively recent imports that defied easy categorization, were a challenge. However, the Industrial Revolution brought these foods to the forefront of the consciousness of many countries, particularly America, as it allowed them to be mass-produced. Giant candy companies like Mars and Hershey grew to prominence and began to saturate the market. These companies had to try to shape their own public perceptions to combat prejudices and increase sales, though. In particular, the early 20th century was characterized by a war over the purity of chocolate between chocolate advertisements and American moralists, particularly those in newspapers. The fate of a potentially multi-billion-dollar industry hung in the balance.

The moral trepidation about chocolate and its big companies can be traced back to European roots. The Cadbury Company faced a debilitating scandal in the mid-1800’s when a Lancet study found that they were using brick dust and other impure items in their chocolate; furthermore, Cadbury was accused in the early 20th century of procuring raw materials from Brazilian islands Sao Tome and Principe, where slavery was still practiced (Lecture Notes). Though Cadbury earnestly tried to combat this stigma, the idea that chocolate companies were immoral remained omnipresent in society afterwards.

Cadbury’s issues of adulteration plagued its American cousins, too. In her article “Blame Candy” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Samira Kawash reports that, “candy makers were suspected of cutting corners… [and] boosting the bottom line by adding fillers like plaster or sawdust…, replacing chocolate with wax or nuts with cardboard, employing toxic dyes to create eye-catching colors.” American candy makers were accused of dishonesty, a practice that seemed especially immoral when one considers that their main consumer base was children. To make matters worse, as the same author reports in a different article for The Journal of American Culture, entitled “The Candy Prophylactic, Danger, Disease, and Children’s Candy Around 1916”, a sudden epidemic of infant paralysis in 1916 was incorrectly blamed on food adulteration in the candy industry.

Indeed, as Kawash notes, “if one were to read the daily papers, it was a miracle that any candy-eating child survived.” Indeed, investigation into contemporary newspapers reveals a multitude of headlines linking candy with death. Some include, “Baby Chokes to Death on Peanut in Candy” (Chicago Tribune, July 13, 1925), “Boy Eats Candy, Dies” (Washington Post, June 26, 1921) and “Seven Escape Death From Poisoned Candy” (Baltimore Sun, January 5, 1924). The immorality of candy did not even stop with adulteration of food. In 1937, New York mayor Henry LaGuardia declared war on New York penny candy sellers, claiming that they were taking advantage of children by selling them candy with the lure of potential prizes to lucky purchasers (foodtimeline.org). In the 1920’s and 1930’s, candy had an image problem.

In order to combat this problem with their reputation, larger candy companies utilized advertisements in print publications to communicate with their public and disseminate a narrative centered around the purity of both chocolate candy and its purveyors. This advertisement in the New York Herald in 1933 provides an example of such practices:

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 11.57.59 PM

This full-page advertisement painstakingly spells out to consumers why Loft candies are different. The banner at the bottom proclaims that “Pure Candies are Better For You”, and Loft reiterates this by proclaiming its candies are “absolutely pure” in the text of the ad. Furthermore, in its proclamation that it doesn’t charge consumers for the box, Loft distances itself from any demonizing accusations about cheating consumers.

The idea of Loft being a company that treats consumers right reappears in later Loft ads, like this one.

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The banner at the bottom proclaims that, “Loft has 150 stores to serve you right” and the emphasis on the ad remains firmly on the consumer, who is addressed with repeated use of the word “you”. Phrases like “You’ll find that Loft is the best candy for you” and the “Loft Guarantee” that “if you ever ate better candies at double the price, bring back the empty box and Loft will cheerfully refund your money.” The implication here is that Loft is not a company out for its own selfish aims—it simply wants to give you the best candy possible.

Large candy companies even went to lengths to deflect the negative stereotypes associated with candy onto their local competition. Though big companies were implicated in impurity accusations, they wanted to perpetuate the narrative that bigger company products were more reliable than shoddily-crafted corner store alternatives. One Mars ad provides an example of such practices.        

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With a full page to work with, this ad utilizes a multitude of tactics in order to get its point across. It underscores traditional notions of maternal mothers watching out for their children and paternal fathers understanding how business works. It makes the point that not only is the candy-maker in question immoral for cutting corners in his production, he is a bad businessman for not selling Mars bars, which would sell out quicker. The implications of the ad are strong. Mars bars are reliable and delicious—it is the alternatives that parents should worry about.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, American chocolate companies sought to distance themselves from notions of impurity and impropriety that had long pursued their brands. Newspapers and moralists were quick to blame candy companies for deaths and the degradation of society, and chocolate companies sought to break this narrative in their print advertisements. This war determined the future of the candy industry, which, thanks in large part to its less deadly current reputation, is thriving.

Works Cited: 

Kawash, Samira. “Blame Candy.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 60.08 (2013). Biography in Context. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

Kawash, S. (2010), The Candy Prophylactic: Danger, Disease, and Children’s Candy Around 1916. The Journal of American Culture, 33: 167–182. doi: 10.1111/j.1542-734X.2010.00742.x

“Penny Candy”, Food Timeline. http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcandy.html#modernamericancandy

“Display Ad 58–No Title”. Daily Boston Globe (1928-1960); May 18, 1933; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Boston Globe.

“Display Ad 62–No Title”. New York Herald Tribune (1926-1962); Oct 20, 1933; Proquest Historical Newspapers: New York Tribune/Herald Tribune

“Display Ad 24–No Title”. New York Herald Tribune (1926-1962); Jun 3, 1933; Proquest Historical Newspapers: New York Tribune/Herald Tribune

“Search Results: ‘Candy’, ‘Death’; Publication date: 1920-1929”. ProQuest Historical Newspapers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unwrapping Chocolate Potential in the East: How Foreign Companies Wooed Chinese Consumers

Chocolate was introduced to Europe in the 16th century but it was not until the end of the 20th century that the godly good made its way to China. By the end of the 20th century, China had undergone dramatic social and economic expansion, and the world’s largest chocolate companies (the “Big Five”: Ferrero SpA, Cadbury, Hershey Co., Nestlé SA, and Mars Inc.) recognized the potential of introducing chocolate to the Chinese market (Allen 202). At the time however, chocolate had no history or tradition in China, thus highlighting the importance of finding a meaningful way of introducing the good. The “Big Five” companies needed to have a profound understanding of cultural differences in order to do so (Nelson). Moreover, these companies faced numerous challenges in regards to supply chain management and distribution. Depicting how global chocolate companies attempted to gain commercial success in China highlights the intricate nature of developing into an emerging market. This also enhances our understanding of the strategies these companies will embrace as they expand further.

chocolate-heart
Gift Giving – A Cultural Gateway

Culinary traditions were very different in China and chocolate companies were challenged to find a meaningful way of introducing chocolate to the Chinese market (Allen 23). The big five chocolate companies recognized that gift giving was universal throughout China and could serve as the cultural gateway for introducing chocolate. With this is mind, chocolate companies targeted their marketing efforts toward affluent Chinese consumers and developed elaborate packaging designs to appeal to this consumer base (Allen 25).

Although many affluent Chinese consumers were willing to justify the expense of chocolate for gift giving, chocolate companies recognized that self-consumption could generate even greater profits across a variety of social classes. In established markets in other countries, self-consumption accounts for approximately 90 percent of total sales (Allen 26). In China in the 90s however, gift giving accounted for more than 50 percent of total sales, thus highlighting enormous potential for expansion into the self-consumption market! China’s economy grew substantially in the 1990s and consumers subsequently started having more pocket money. In addition, young Chinese started familiarizing themselves with Western culture and food. These social and economic changes conveniently facilitated the introduction of chocolate to the mass market in China (Allen 27).

Mars’s Master Strategy

Today, the American company Mars is the leading chocolate business in China and a number of factors allowed Mars to get ahead of its competitors. First, Mars introduced the Dove chocolate bar, the earliest chocolate product aimed for self-consumption (Allen 200). This bar allowed Mars to establish legitimacy and build loyalty among young Chinese people (Allen 21). Moreover, Mars has embraced an aggressive expansion strategy of manufacturing in China along with aggressive media and marketing initiatives primarily to build up its Dove and Snickers brand (Lannes and Blasberg)

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 6.59.42 PM
Mars was the official sponsor and exclusive supplier of chocolate bars during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, representing one of many successful recent marketing initiatives.

In addition to recognizing the value of branding, Mars has also undergone some organizational changes that lowered distribution costs. The recent acquisition of the gum company Wrigley’s, resulted in the formation of the leading retail confectionary company and gave Mars extensive distribution and sales operations networks (Allen 211-212). This recent merger ultimately allowed Mars to strengthen the company’s position as the leading chocolate company in China.

This campaign, which encourages consumers to create a love art piece by using Dove’s boxes, went viral on social media, exemplifying the success of Mars’s marketing efforts.

Looking Ahead

Today, the Chinese chocolate market represents a relatively small share of global chocolate consumption. However, the country’s sales potential is huge, given that a larger proportion of the country’s population is becoming potential chocolate consumers (Allen 202; Cohen). During the last three decades, the “Big Five” companies have built brand awareness and it seems unlikely that other global chocolate companies will be able to break into the market (Allen 22). Although local Chinese competitors have lower operating costs and can thus set lower prices, it seems unlikely that these companies are an immense threat to the “Big Five” (Allen 213).

China’s market has enormous growth potential and there are two major strategies that chocolate companies can adopt to strengthen their position. First, chocolate companies should sustain business in first-tier cities and fine-tune sales and marketing efforts (Allen 202; Nelson). Secondly, chocolate companies should consider expanding to second-tier cities (Allen 202; Nelson). Supermarkets represent a new exciting distribution channel, but it will be imperative to address challenges in regards to infrastructure and product innovation to respond to the preferences and price-point of the new consumer base.

To wrap up, there is seemingly no simple recipe for success but companies that are sensitive to the varied demands of the Chinese consumers are more likely to unleash the full potential of the market.

HD16365-1.jpg

 

Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York: American Management Association, 2010. Print.

Cohen, Luc. “China Chocolate Market Seen Growing to $4.3bln by 2019-Hershey.” Reuters. 18 February 2015. Web. 11 March 2016.

Lannes, Bruno, and John Blasberg. “Gold Medal Brands.” Bain & Company Insights. July 1 2008. Web. 11 March. 2016.

Nelson, Christina. “Chocolate Fortunes.” China Business Review. July 1 2008. Web. 11 March 2016.

Media Sources

Chocolate candy hearts. Digital Image. http://torange.biz/16365.html. Web. 11 March. 2016

Chocolate Heart. Digital Image. http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=20869&picture=chocolate-heart. Web. 11 March. 2016.

Kestrel Lee. “Dove Chocolate’s Valentine’s Day Campaign”. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 9 January 2012. Web. March 11. 2016.

Snickers hospitality Team. Digital Image. http://www.sportsworld.co.uk/clients/snickers-beijing-olympics-2008. Web. 11 March. 2016

 

Chocolate’s Expansion Beyond Europe

Despite chocolate’s wide availability in Mayan culture, the European chocolate experience was much like that of the Aztecs: chocolate was mostly a drink restricted to the elite. Eventually, however, chocolate would spread to every strata of society and even to countries that previously rejected the chocolate tradition. How did chocolate win over the economies and hearts of cultures worldwide? Chocolate’s expansion beyond Europe was made possible by two factors–mechanization and culturally-relevant marketing strategies.

In the Baroque era, chocolate failed to become a popular drink outside of Europe (Clarence-Smith). Even inside Europe, chocolate had to fight for attention with tea and coffee, two other foods that were held in higher esteem. In fact, while chocolate was associated with aristocratic excess, tea and coffee were seen as drinks that represented “sobriety, serious purpose, trustworthiness, and respectability” (Clarence-Smith). Art depicting chocolate during this era reflects how chocolate was seen as part of a ritual reserved for higher-class persons, especially women (see media below). However, in areas under Spanish influence (such as the Phillipines), chocolate enjoyed a strong favoritism among the population. Yet chocolate would fail to take root as a popular food in the rest of Asia, perhaps due to the overwhelming Confucian tea tradition prevalent in East Asia.

Woman pouring chocolate from a 18th-century painting. Wikimedia Commons license.

But the mid-1800’s would see the beginnings of a revolution that would allow chocolate to be made cheaper, to be molded into unique forms, and expand beyond the higher and middle classes. The invention of conching, powdered forms of cocoa, and chocolate in bar form allowed chocolate to be made more rapidly and at a price point that was friendlier to the lower classes. At the same time, chocolate began being revered as a source of protein. “British workman cocoa houses were” being built to cater to the common laborer (Clarence-Smith) and militaries began providing chocolate bars as part of soldiers’ rations. As a result of falling prices and more diversification of chocolate forms, lower classes could afford more of the substance in chocolate’s various incarnations. Advances in transportation and a move towards closed storefronts allowed chocolate to travel intact across countries and into the hands of consumers (Goody).

Despite the lower prices for chocolate and its increasing ubiquity thanks to mechanization, markets in East Asia remained closed to chocolate companies until well into the 20th century. By this time, America was thoroughly hooked on chocolate, with even the National Confectioners’ Association running ads encouraging the daily partaking of chocolate (Martin). Mars was the first to attempt to bring this type of campaign to East Asia. Mars’ executives knew that China held an untapped chocolate market, and they decided to make a splash by using big marketing tactics. Mars’ first move was establishing a representative office in Beijing during the Asian games and sponsoring sports—which led to M&M’s becoming the official snack food of the 1990 Games.

Other chocolate companies were also eager to move into China and East Asia, and they incorporated several clever marketing strategies to fuel Asian consumers’ taste for chocolate. In the 1950’s confectioners hit upon a marketing nerve that resonated with Japanese consumers: they marketed Valentine’s Day as a chance for women to show affection towards men. For a woman to reveal her feelings towards a man was considered radical in Japanese culture at that time. Confectioners cleverly created a day where it was “acceptable” for women to express their feelings (Just Hungry). This type of marketing tapped into cultural traditions and expectations, showcasing how confectioners adapted to the culture of East Asian countries in order to make sales. Confectioners also used unique marketing strategies such as sponsoring an artist who went viral with his design for a heart-shaped carriage (Martin). By tapping into cultural mindsets and encouraging grassroots expansion, chocolatiers were able to edge into the Asian market.

Today, chocolate is finally hitting the sweet spot in Asia. Confectioners have expanded on the practice of “obligation” gift-giving in certain cultures and heavily marketed occasions where chocolate gifts are an obligatory treat. For instance, on Valentine’s Day, women in Japan are expected to give “giri chocolate” to males to whom they have no romantic feelings whatsoever, such as their bosses or mentors (Just Hungry). Marketers have gone even further and created a “White Day” where men could return the favor and gift women with chocolates and candy.

Here is a photo of giri choco, which is Japanese for “obligation chocolate”—the kind of chocolate women must give to men whom they have no romantic interest in. Flickr attribution/non-commercial license.

Far from being an elite food today, chocolate has crossed from the drawing rooms of Spanish and French nobility and emerged as a global product. Its entrance into East Asia was facilitated by 19th century advances in production and enabled through the use of marketing tactics that created a cultural fever for the sweet treat.


Sources:

Clarence-Smith, William Gervase. Cocoa and Chocolate, 1765-1914. 2000. Print.

Goody, Jack. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” 2013 (1982). Print.

Just Hungry. “The Japanese Valentine’s Day tradition of compartmentalized chocolate giving.” 8 Feb. 2016. http://justhungry.com/uniquely-japanese-valentines-day-tradition-compartmentalized-chocolate-giving. Online.

Martin, Carla. “Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food Lecture Slides 2016.” 2016. Online.

 

Sugar, Milk, and the Rise of Mass Chocolate Consumption

Walk into any convenience or grocery store in the U.S. and you will likely be greeted by a display of brightly wrapped candies. Many of these contain chocolate; a 2012 Bloomberg study found M&Ms to be the top-selling American candy, followed by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, and Snickers Bars (Arndt). All four of these products are marketed as chocolate-based sweets, but it is sweetness, not chocolate, that seems to be the main focus. The nutrition label for a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar, for example034000290055NF (pictured right), lists sugar as the primary ingredient, and then milk. Only after these two does chocolate appear. The addition of sugar and milk to eating chocolate goes back to the 1800s, largely motivated by that fact that, in a trend that continues to this day, cacao was more expensive than sugar or milk. It was the relative cheapness of the latter two ingredients that allowed for mass production – and thus true mass consumption – of eating chocolate from the late 1800s onwards. As the list of candies above attests, this combination still shapes modern chocolate preferences.

Europeans have been adding sugar to drinking chocolate since the early 1500s, when cacao was first introduced to the West. It comes as no surprise, then, that the first chocolate bar made expressly for eating, invented by Joseph Fry in 1847, was molded from a combination of cocoa powder, melted cacao butter, and sugar (Coe and Coe Ch.8, “Quaker Capitalists”). Soon after, in 1867, Henri Nestlé found a way to manufacture

petersgalachocolate
Peter’s Milk Chocolate was the first of its kind to be created. This advertisement draws on words like “smooth” and “creamy” to draw customers in, adjectives that are still associated with milk chocolate. The relatively lower price on this and subsequent milk chocolate bars meant they could be marketed to customers other than the very wealthy.

powdered milk, and the first milk chocolate bar – an advertisement for which is shown on the left – a joint creation of Nestlé and Daniel Peter, was born in 1879 (Coe and Coe Ch.8, “Switzerland”). From 1903 onwards, Milton Hershey built his company around milk chocolate and cocoa powder, though he developed his chocolate using liquid condensed milk rather than the powdered variety. Liquid milk was easier and faster – and therefore cheaper – to transport from one end of a factory to another, allowing Hershey to make and sell his products domestically for a lower price (D’Antonio 107).

 

Milk chocolate was to become the foundation of popular chocolate consumption,

cocoa_may_2012_1
Cacao prices from 2006-2012, recorded in USD/metric ton

originally for price but later because of a developed taste for the added sweetness. To make it, one adds milk in with the other ingredients before refining and conching the mixture. Milk and sugar both add flavor and volume, allowing manufacturers to use less chocolate liquor – made from cacao beans – than would otherwise be needed (Coe and Coe Ch.8, “Quality vs. Quantity”). This makes the chocolate cheaper to produce, and men like Hershey would have recognized this when building companies. Over the past century, cacao has generally been more expensive than sugar or milk. The trend

sugar_price_1
Sugar prices from 2002-2009, recorded in US cents/lb. Comparatively, a ton of sugar is much less expensive than a ton of cacao

continues on in today’s market, as shown by the provided graphs (cacao above right, sugar on the left). At its lowest price between 2006 and 2012, a ton of cacao cost over 15,000 USD; by contrast, at its highest price over the similar time period 2002-2009, a ton of sugar (after conversion from cents/lb) could be bought for less than 500 USD.

 

 

Milk and sugar were thus cheaper to obtain for companies looking to mass produce chocolate after the late 1800s. This made sweet milk chocolate less expensive to make than dark chocolate, which required more chocolate liquor. By the same token, it also meant milk chocolate could be sold at lower prices, making it attractive and accessible to consumers. Where before chocolate had been largely consumed by the wealthy, Hershey’s bars could be bought for only a nickel in the 1920s, a very affordable fee for the average person (Brenner 55). Cost was thus an important consideration on both sides, as the success of Mars’ Milky Way further demonstrates. Created in 1924, the Milky Way “tasted just as chocolatey” as a bar but was much less expensive to manufacture (Brenner 55). It’s main ingredient was nougat, “a whipped filling made of egg whites and corn syrup,” with only a thin chocolate casing (Brenner 54). Nougat was cheaper to produce than chocolate, and so Mars could make Milky Ways much bigger than traditional chocolate bars for the same expense. Consumers loved the candy for its price, size, and sweet taste; another Mars creation, the Snickers bar, enjoyed similar success, and continues to be the fourth best-selling candy in the U.S. (Arndt).

Today, milk chocolate candies remain vastly more popular than their dark chocolate counterparts. Although price remains a factor, a major reason for this is the acquired tastes of consumers for sweeter chocolate. It is expected that candy and chocolate will be packed with sugar, and this assumption stems from over a century of eating the sweetened milk chocolate of Hershey’s, Mars, Cadbury, and other such companies. The practice of adding milk and sugar stemmed from the cost of these ingredients relative to cacao, and what began as a method for cheaply producing chocolate has grown to shape the Western world’s perception of chocolate. Although dark chocolate has a strong following, milk chocolate still reigns supreme.

Sources:

Arndt, Michael. “America’s 25 Favorite Candies: Top-Selling Sweets.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg. Web. 07 Mar. 2016. <http://www.bloomberg.com/ss/09/10/1021_americas_25_top_selling_candies/index.htm&gt;.

Brenner, Joël Glenn. The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. New York: Random House, 1999. Print.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013. E-book.

D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Print.

Multimedia Sources:

Hershey Bar Nutrition Facts: “Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars, Six 1.55-Ounce Bars – MyQuickMart.” MyQuickMart. Web. 08 Mar. 2016. <http://www.myquickmart.com/products/034000290055&gt;.

Peter Milk Chocolate Advertisement: “Milk Chocolate – History of Milk Chocolate.” What’s Cooking America. Web. 08 Mar. 2016. <http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/MilkChocolate.htm&gt;.

Cocoa price graph: “Cocoa Growing Region.” Web. 08 Mar. 2016. <http://www.thaiembassyuk.org.uk/activities/cocoa-growing-region&gt;.

Sugar price graph: “Imbalance between Supply and Demand Drives Sugar Prices to 28 Year High | Economics.” Web. 08 Mar. 2016. <http://www.tutor2u.net/economics/blog/imbalance-between-supply-and-demand-drives-sugar-prices-to-28-year-high&gt;.

A Growing Taste for Chocolate: An Analysis of Chocolate Displays in CVS and FamilyMart

Globalization has created incredible challenges for modern marketing, as companies must win over new markets that feature the unique tastes and desires of a different society. When we take a look at how chocolate is marketed and sold in both American and Chinese drugstores, we can analyze how the stores display the chocolate products. Through this analysis, we can also realize how those reflect the social perception of chocolate in each country, in turn directing how those changing perceptions turn around and drive the marketing, thus creating one large feedback loop. In this analysis, we will examine the displays that sell chocolate in one Harvard Square branch of CVS and compare that with chocolate displays in a parallel store in Shanghai, China called FamilyMart.

Mass-produced chocolate in CVS "Premium Chocolate" display in CVS

To set the scene for our argument, we will begin with a basic overview of the two stores and their respective displays. CVS is the second largest pharmacy chain the USA, after Walgreens; in Harvard Square alone, there are two branches opened. Taking a look at the display of chocolate in newly opened branch on JFK Street, we can see that chocolate is sold throughout the store, with one primary area for most of the chocolate being sold. The standard bulk chocolate is sold clumped together in one aisle, with various other candies and sweets, while the “Premium Chocolate” display is placed at the end of that aisle.

Bulk chocolate bins in FamilyMart FamilyMart logo Chocolate on shelves in FamilyMart

Most readers will be familiar with CVS, but not so much FamilyMart. FamilyMart is in fact a Japanese convenience store that has flourished in China, where there are currently 1,235 stores in operation, and it can be considered a Chinese equivalent to CVS. In this Shanghai franchise of FamilyMart, we can see that chocolate is also being sold in two sections, but with significant differences in strategy. Instead of choosing bags of prepackaged chocolates, customers can instead choose their desired amount of snack-sized mass-produced chocolates (like Snickers, M&Ms, or Chinese brands) and buy that amount for a price based on the weight of chocolate. These bins stretch down the entire aisle; the shelves on either side hold the prepackaged gift-type chocolates, bars, and even displays devoted to entire brands.


With the scene set for the two drugstores in the United States and in China, we can begin to examine the specific strategies used to create those displays and how they reflect each country’s habits and perceptions of chocolate. There are two important aspects of these displays that we can focus on: the chocolate and its packaging, as well as the context of the displays themselves.

The assortment available in the regular chocolate aisle of CVS is what one would expect of any American retailer, with all the “big chocolate” players trying to assert their presence. Often, there will be yellow stickers to indicate special deals resulting in astoundingly low prices associated with a huge variety of products. This can only speak to the power of multinational corporations, which is reflected in their ability to produce and distribute millions of pounds of chocolate worldwide. This ability, as detailed by anthropologist Jack Goody in Industrial Food, is mainly due to improvements in mechanization and transportation in the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. Coupled with this technical revolution of mass production was the increased volume of trade, and as a result, retailers are able to provide many of the same products worldwide. As a result, in the Chinese counterpart to CVS, we can see many of the same goods: M&Ms, Hershey Kisses, Ferrero Rocher. In that sense, the variety of goods that companies are trying to market do not vary much, and so they do not have to create entirely new marketing strategies for a completely different set of products.

However, in the clash of cultures that is “East Meets West”, companies must tackle the task that comes with marketing to Chinese consumers. China is one of the most famous cases of growing globalization and capitalism: reforms in the 1980s shifted the Chinese economic structure from communalism to a market-based economy, and according to the World Bank, over 500 million people have been pulled above the poverty line with GDP growth rate averaging around 10% yearly. With this quickly growing economy and a population of 1.3 billion, China became the popular target for the big chocolate companies. Access to this market has not been easy for many of the companies, and these companies have had to come up with new strategies from those used in the United States to break into the Chinese market.

Thus, when we take a look at the packaging, we can see obvious differences that show that these companies are reacting towards the different perceptions that Chinese people hold about chocolate. The first main difference is that in CVS, the bulk chocolate is already packaged in bags of about ten to twelve ounces for consumers to buy. As mass production become increasingly easier for companies to use, the West saw that “choices to be made about eating…are made…by what are perceived as time constraints” (Mintz 202). Americans began prioritizing the convenience of food and snacks, and so these packs are ready-made with a variety of products for customers to grab and go.

Hersheys Spring Assortment Mars Halloween Assortment

In American society, the “experience of time…is often one of an insoluble shortage, and this perception may be essential to…the principle of ever-expanded consumption”(Mintz 202). As people in America feel increasingly pressed for time due to the pressure to do more and be more successful, these conveniently packages have unconsciously driven the mass consumption of chocolates, which in turns fuels the support for selling chocolate in such method. In other words, the packaging in CVS showcases the American impulse of buying chocolate on a whim, often to self-indulge themselves with large quantities of chocolate, which only reinforces that particular marketing strategy.

Contrast this to the packaging in FamilyMart, which reflects the more careful and thoughtful selection of Chinese consumers. Customers instead get to scoop their own bags and combinations of chocolates. This Chinese strategy of selling snack-sized chocolates has a much more practical air, in that customers can pick exactly how much of what they want to eat without the trouble of having to buy at least ten or so ounces of it. This process of selecting their chocolate and having it weighed, similar to how one would buy chocolate or candy from a specialty store in the United States, requires more upfront investment in the purchase, perhaps due to an underlying purpose of gift giving.

Gift giving itself is an act that requires much more thought and preparation, and the importance of gifts is a Chinese cultural code that successful companies have recognized while marketing in China. While the bulk chocolate can be catered towards someone’s particular tastes for chocolate, other products on the FamilyMart shelves can be seen packaged very ornately to leave a positive impression upon receipt. The M&Ms are packaged in the fun shape of the M&M mascot and even with a gift inside, while the Dove chocolate has been placed in a respectable tin. In fact, Mars has adopted this tactic of appropriate packaging rather well, and the commercial below is just one example that reflects Mars’ overall strategy of emphasizing the appropriateness of Dove chocolate for a gift.

[Chinese Kinder ad]

This commercial is the second of a two-part series of ads that focuses on the same actor and actress. The smitten man brings chocolate to the door of the woman he pursued in the first installment, and gives it as a gift of his season’s greetings. She shares the chocolate with her friends and then coyly asks him to bring another box just for her, and so the commercial ends on a promising note. We could also examine this ad for the way it plays into stereotypical gender roles and associations with chocolate, but will instead keep the focus on the action of gift giving. This ad targets the gift giving aspect of Chinese culture incredibly well, giving the audience positive images of love and associating that with Dove chocolate. As Professor Martin discussed in lecture, Mars has been able to win over the hearts of Chinese consumers more successfully than the other companies, simply by showing a distinguished knowledge of and dedication to Chinese consumers.

After analyzing the product availability and packaging in each of the stores, we can also look at the particular placement of the displays themselves within the store. As described earlier, CVS has most of its chocolate in one main aisle with the “Premium Chocolate” display labeled as such, and at the end of that aisle. This has several effects, the first of which is the mere placement of more chocolate at the end of one aisle. Because customers only pick an aisle if they know the product is in that aisle, they are more likely to walk past all the ends of the aisles. Having chocolate on the end of the aisle thus promotes its visibility in the store and entices people to pick up some “premium” chocolate, in this case various bars and packages of Ghiradelli, Lindt, and Ferrero Rocher. In the case where they prefer other kinds of chocolate, they have still been distracted by the mere image of chocolate and are then pulled into the aisle in search of the chocolate they want instead. In this particular CVS, and most American stores in general, there chocolate and candy even at the counter, which has the same effect of distracting the customer and relies again on the impulse and self-indulgence snacking tendencies that Americans tend to display.

Counter of CVS selling chocolate snacks

This snacking tendency actually has been seen as a historical trend away from full and separate meals, to smaller snacks in between main mealtimes. The French anthropologist Fischler, “appalled by the way “snacking” has supplanted meal taking…raises questions about the trend toward desocialized, aperiodic eating” (Mintz 212). This tendency is so common and has become so ingrained in our diets that it aligned perfectly with Western packaging of chocolate in convenient grab-and-go sizes. Mintz further goes on to say that today one might sense the “quickening of such diffusion, a speeding up, even in large, ancient societies that were apparently once resistant to such processes, such as China and Japan”.

In FamilyMart too, there were small packets of chocolate at the register for people to glance at and perhaps buy to snack on. However, the mass of the chocolate in FamilyMart was deep within the aisles of the store. The pictures have shown the large self-scoops of mass-produced chocolate, as well as the shelf displays of more nicely packaged chocolate. These displays were on either side of the bulk chocolate, and although it makes sense at first to group all the chocolate together, seems to have other effects. In order to look at those chocolates, customers must literally turn their backs on the bins in order to look at the shelves. This causes a literal separation between the two types of packaged chocolate, which directly contrasts with the placement in the American display. The chocolate in CVS at the end of the aisle drew the customer in, whereas the bins are what will catch the Chinese consumer’s eyes and potentially keep them there and cause them to be completely distracted from the contents of the shelves.

How then, can chocolate companies be so successful with the ornate packaging in FamilyMart that is actually rarely seen in generic drugstores like CVS? This apparent contradiction can be explained through the perception of chocolate in China and the nature of the consumers’ purchases. We have also explained the impulse buys that mark American purchases, and contrasted that with the gift-oriented purchases of the Chinese. The separation of the shelves and the bins push this explanation even further, in that Chinese consumers must truly have given genuine thought to the idea of purchasing chocolate as a gift rather than whimsically deciding to buy it for someone after seeing it. After all, the likelihood that they look at the shelves is very low when the large bins of chocolate capture their eyes first. Even when consumers buy chocolate as gifts in CVS, it still may be marked by impulsive tendencies merely because their thoughts have been primed by the image of chocolate. The placement of certain chocolate on the shelves was further emphasized by flashy displays. Of particular mention were the following two displays for Ferrero Rocher and Kinder.

Ferrero Rocher display in FamilyMart Kinder display in FamilyMart

These displays were of particular interest due to the fact that Mars has been so successful relative to the other chocolate companies in China. Ferrero, another of the big five companies, owns these two brands. As a matter of fact, Ferrero has carved out its own “niche in China by taking the path of least resistance” and successfully employing tactics aimed at the Chinese culture of gift giving. In Chocolate Fortunes, Lawrence Allen tells of how Ferrero “successfully sold the Chinese people on its delicate, foil-wrapped hazelnut treats”, using its foreign and exclusive image to promote the value of its chocolate as a luxury gift (Wharton article). Thus, placed in this historical context, the display in FamilyMart of Ferrero with its predominantly gift-oriented goods and personalized spotlights makes complete sense.

With this explanation, the other display of Kinder chocolate then seems somewhat of an anomaly, since the packaging looks too simple to mark the goods as gifts. We often do not see Kinder chocolate in the United States; the CVS in this comparison certainly did not sell Kinder products. The reason for its presence and marketing is in fact driven by another aspect of Chinese culture – that of the value placed in children. The marketing of this product was likely developed through the social valuation of children in Chinese culture, and the parental desire to raise successful children. In the following ad, the mother has prepared Kinder chocolate for the children when they say that they want to eat something tasty. The chocolate is further described as having the nutritional value of a large glass of milk within the bar, and the children are shown playing outside happy and healthy. These images really draw on the parents’ desires to have similarly happy and healthy children, and so Ferrero demonstrates truly effective marketing that plays on aspects of Chinese culture that Mars does not.

Following the examination of chocolate displays in an American CVS and a Chinese FamilyMart, we can see that both the variety of goods, their packaging, as well as the environment of their displays all reflect the societal perceptions of chocolate. These in turn show how each culture has particular values that are played upon by chocolate companies in order for them to successfully sell their product; and in doing so, these chocolate companies further reinforce the same habits that then continue to draw sales of chocolate. Yet in the Chinese market, we can see two divisive approaches that sell chocolate: one approach sells chocolate in customized bulk purchases of snack-sized chocolate, while the other approach leads to elaborate packaging the name of gift giving. These approaches, although both effective thus far, are signs that Mars has perhaps a slippery hold on the Chinese market for chocolate. There remains still an enormous amount of potential in a market of this size, and through the continued, careful analysis of Chinese culture, any company can emerge successful in the years to come.

Works Cited

European vs. American Tastes and Trends: Comparing Cardullo’s and CVS’s Chocolate

Chocolate is a delicious commodity enjoyed throughout the world.  However, chocolate tastes and consumption patterns vary from region to region.  For example, chocolate produced for Americans is often made very sweet, contains less cacao and cocoa butter, and many times becomes an impulse buy or guilty pleasure.  Chocolate is also heavily marketed towards children in the United States, and most of the chocolate consumed by Americans is from Big Chocolate companies such as Hershey.  However, in many European countries, chocolate is often more luxurious and rich, is complemented with a variety of fruity and spicy flavors, and is marketed more towards the adult population.  In addition, European chocolate is often more expensive given its target audience and higher cacao content.  It is important to note that each country within Europe makes chocolate slightly different and has its own unique consumption trends, but in general, most European chocolate is made with more sophistication and higher quality ingredients when compared to American chocolate which is often heavily corporatized and mass-produced.  The differences between American and European chocolate are so stark that we can even witness them when comparing the chocolate found in international stores in the United States to the chocolate sold in American grocery stores.  For the purposes of this paper, the chocolate sold in Cardullo’s and CVS will be compared and contrasted in order to demonstrate the differences between European and American chocolate.  It will be argued that variations in ingredients, target audiences, and packaging are what influence and distinguish European and American chocolate tastes, advertising, and consumption trends.

Cardullo’s is a gourmet shop in Harvard Square that sells food ranging from fresh deli meats to jams to dried pasta.  Many people, including myself, believe that the store is meant to be reflective of a European shop or cafe because the store sells mainly imported brands and gives off an international vibe with its rustic and crowded interior.  What is interesting is that the only thing I have ever purchased from Cardullo’s has been chocolate, and when I revisited the store this past week I realized why: their chocolate selection is outstanding!  Moreover, four out of the five times I bought chocolate from Cardullo’s, the chocolate wasn’t even for me, it was meant to be a gift for someone else.

When I think about why I chose Cardullo’s for the chocolate gifts, it was because I wanted my present to feel unique, luxurious, and thoughtful.  I was not about to buy someone special a plain Hershey’s bar or a bag of Reese’s.  I knew that Cardullo’s sold European chocolate brands and felt that European chocolate was high quality.  I feel that this is a common perception, that European chocolate is more luxurious and better than American chocolate.  This bias may be based on the idea that European chocolate often contains more cacao and cocoa butter than American chocolate, which is considered a sign of quality.  This is because the United States only requires its chocolate to contain 10% cacao, while in Europe to be considered “chocolate”, a bar must be at least 20% cacao (Gourmet Boutique).  Many argue that American chocolate producers care more about cost than quality when it comes to their chocolate which is why they use lower quality ingredients and mass-produce their chocolate unlike many European companies (Alberts and Cidell, 224).  American chocolate companies using less cacao in their bars dates back to the beginnings of the Mars Company.  Frank Mars tried several times to create a popular chocolate bar and eventually ran himself into debt (Brenner, 53).  However, once he and his son invented the Milky Way in 1923 (which is chocolate nugget covered in a thin layer of chocolate) the company’s costs of production fell drastically because the bars contained less cacao (Brenner, 54-55).  The bars immediately became popular because they were larger and cheaper than the other current chocolate bar at the time, Hershey’s (Brenner, 55).  It was partially Mar’s usage of a cheaply made filled bar that led other American chocolate producers to try to use less cacao in their bars.  The fact that the Hershey company mass-manufactured and got people habituated to milk chocolate with less cacao may be another reason why Americans accept chocolate with a lower cacao content today.

Getting back to the matter at hand, the imported chocolate at Cardullo’s did contain a significant amount of cacao, the lowest cacao content I saw being 23% in a standard chocolate bar.  Most of the imported European chocolate also highlighted the cacao percentage on the front of their packaging, which is something I do not recall being included on most American-produced chocolate wrappers (see Figure 1 below).  This marketing tactic enables European chocolate producers to tout the high levels of cacao they are using (Wolke).

Figure 2: Cardullo’s chocolate selection (left) vs. CVS’s selection (right)
Figure 1: European Chocolate Wrappers with Cacao Content on the Front vs. An American Hershey Bar

I remember that selecting the chocolate gifts at Cardullo’s was extremely difficult because of the wide variety of chocolate brands and flavors they sold.  On one occasion, I had trouble deciding and ended up buying five bars each with a different flavor: chili with cherry, dark milk, 88% dark, orange, and sea salt caramel.  Upon revisiting the shop, I re-discovered some of these specific chocolate bars whose brands were Chocolat Bonnat (France), Valrhona (France), and Dolfin (Belgium).  What enticed me about these particular bars were their intriguing flavors, some of which I had never seen before.  Most of the flavors in Cardullo’s chocolate include nuts, spices, or fruits, which is actually common for European chocolate and contrasts with American chocolate which is usually complemented with caramel, nugget, and other sugary fillings.  These more savory flavors used in European chocolate tie back to the Mesoamerican origins of chocolate.  In fact, several scholars believe that “Europeans developed a taste for Indian chocolate, and they sought to recreate the indigenous chocolate experience” (Norton).  These scholars also claim that this “cross-culturalization of taste” led Europeans to develop an appetite for spices and vanilla (Norton).

I also chose the bars because they had intricate and fancy wrappers that made the chocolate look expensive.  These fancy wrappers are probably a marketing ploy, again to promote the perception that European chocolate is higher in quality and more glamorous.  This perceived quality is also probably factored into the price of the chocolate because the chocolate bars were not the cheapest.  The price of chocolate sold at Cardullo’s ranges from $5-$65 with the pricier chocolate items being gift baskets and large boxes of chocolates.  To me, the prices are justified by the fact that the chocolate is imported and because of the customer base of the shop.  Whether Cardullo’s intends to attract older people or not, their clientele is mainly working men and women and arguably international students.  It is understandable that middle aged and older people visit this store: they can afford the food and have more singular tastes.  It is also interesting to note that chocolate is mainly marketed towards adults in Europe which may be why it is more expensive and takes on a more sophisticated look (Graham).

European chocolate has not always been luxurious or marketed in this way, especially in France.  Today, France creates some of the most artistic, romanticized, and well-known chocolate in the world, but this was not always the case (Terrio, 10).  Until the 1970s, French confections were very traditional and quite plain.  But towards the 1980s, French chocolatiers wanted to re-brand their chocolate and make it more of a specialty item.  In order to do this, they began distinguishing themselves from pastry makers and confectioners, created a new taste standard for bitter dark chocolate, worked with the government and local authorities to establish themselves, and looked to the past to make sure their chocolate had cultural authenticity and didn’t appear mass-produced (Terrio, 12-15).  Finally by 1990, French chocolatiers were being recognized as craftsmen and artisans for their authentic and creative work.  The French chocolatiers were ultimately able to establish themselves because they placed a tremendous amount of time and effort into making small-batch chocolate which contrasted the mass-production and lower quality work conducted at larger chocolate factories and companies at the time (Terrio, 30-35).  Nowadays, there are several fine French chocolate makers such as Valrhona and Bonnat.

Some of my concluding observations about Cardullo’s were that the store mainly sells its chocolates in single bar form as compared to in bulk, but also sells several chocolate confections such as bonbons and truffles.  During my revisit, I also made sure to check the sugar content, fat content, and cacao content of many of the bars in the shop in order to compare them to the chocolate bars in CVS.  Finally, on my way out, I asked an employee what chocolate he preferred, European or American.  He quickly replied, “European of course!  It is much more creamy and rich, and I am pretty sure it doesn’t contain weird ingredients like those used in Hershey’s”.  Another employee chimed in saying, “It is definitely the smoothness that distinguishes the two”.  This smoothness probably derives from the European’s use of extra cocoa butter, or can be attributed to the fact that Europeans (especially the Swiss) prefer smoother chocolate so they conche their chocolate for longer (Presilla, 126).  Studies have found that American chocolate companies typically conche their chocolate for 18-20 hours, whereas Western European chocolate companies conche for 72 hours (Alberts and Cidell, 222).

Now onto CVS.  CVS is a large drug store chain that offers everyday use items from beauty supplies to medications to snacks.  When it comes to chocolate, American CVSs have a surprisingly decent selection.  However, most of the chocolate sold is from Big Chocolate brands such as Mars, Nestle, and Hershey, which can be found in most convenience stores.  CVS also carries some semi-luxurious brands such as Lindt and Godiva (both European brands), but on a small scale.  Walking down the candy aisle at CVS was a much different experience than at Cardullo’s.  For one, I actually felt quite overwhelmed by the bright packaging of the chocolate (a common color theme was using yellow or red).  I also noticed that most of the chocolate brands used animated lettering on their wrappers.  This eye-catching color scheme and lettering clearly contrasted Cardullo’s calm and intricate chocolate packaging and is most likely to attract children (see Figure 2 below).  To reiterate, in the United States, chocolate companies often target children in their advertisements.  As a side note, chocolate marketing towards children is actually a highly controversial topic, as it takes advantage of children’s developmental vulnerabilities and may be contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic (Martin).

cardullos vs cvs
Figure 2: Cardullo’s chocolate selection (left) vs. CVS’s selection (right)

Moreover, just like at Cardullo’s, the price of the chocolate at CVS is probably influenced by its targeted population and the type of people who visit the store.  Since American chocolate is mainly marketed to children in the US, and CVS seems to be a weekly stop for the average person, it makes sense that their chocolate prices are extremely reasonable, ranging from $1-$15.  This affordability allows the chocolate to be an impulse or everyday purchase.  Another thing that somewhat differed between Cardullo’s and CVS chocolate was its placement in the store.  The Cardullo’s chocolate was on the wall sort of close to the register as was the CVS chocolate, but CVS also had a row of chocolate bars right under the register to entice impulse buyers.  Chocolate is considered to be more of a guilty pleasure or impulse purchase in America versus in Europe where people eat chocolate more regularly.  This is because in Europe chocolate is viewed as a food rather than an indulgence (Alberts and Cidell, 224).  This is also revealed in reports showing that Europeans consume about half of the world’s chocolate whereas the United States only consumes about 20% (CNN’s “Who consumes the most chocolate?”).  This trend is possible because many European countries consume more chocolate per capita than the US (see Figure 3 below).  Furthermore, in CVS the chocolate treats were mainly in bar form, were often sold in bulk, and did not come in luxury forms such as bonbons or truffles, again speaking to the target audience’s tastes and trends.  This yet again reveals that American chocolate producers value cost over quality.

consumption
Figure 3: Top 20 Chocolate Consuming Nations (2012)

Finally, when examining the nutrition labels, it was evident that the chocolate in CVS contained more sugar, less fat from cocoa butter, and less cacao altogether.  For example, a Cadbury Milk Bar from Cardullo’s contained 23% cacao, while a Hershey’s Bar from CVS only contained 11%.  What was even more striking was when comparing the same Cadbury Milk Bars, an imported one from Cardullo’s and one from CVS, the nutrition facts and packaging were not equal (see Figure 4 below for a video of a family comparing the British Cadbury bar to the American one).  It is also interesting to point out that the chocolate sold at Cardullo’s was mainly dark chocolate while CVS was capitalized by milk chocolate.  This may be because children prefer sweeter milk chocolate to bitter dark chocolate which is a more acquired taste, or that dark chocolate is truer to the origin of chocolate which is why it is produced more often for European audiences.  Regardless, this finding is not a coincidence in that Americans prefer lighter milk chocolate and Europeans prefer darker chocolate (Presilla, 119).

Figure 4: Video of a Family Trying a Cadbury Milk Bar from the UK vs. the US

In summary, I found Cardullo’s European chocolate and CVS’s American-produced chocolate to be radically different.  What I discovered was that European chocolate contains more cacao, is occasionally complemented with unique spices and flavors, has more sophisticated packaging, and targets a more mature population.  Moreover Europeans tend to prefer dark chocolate and consume chocolate more regularly than Americans.  On the other hand, American-produced chocolate is sweeter with less cacao and more sugary fillings, utilizes bright and animated wrappers, is often mass-produced, and is marketed more towards children.  With these differences in ingredients, packaging, and target audience, it is no wonder that European and American chocolate tastes, consumption trends, and advertising differ.

For added entertainment, click on this link to see a video of two British boys comparing American and British chocolate bars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyD74bJJOTk

Works Cited:

Alberts, Heike C., and Julie L. Cidell. “Chocolate Consumption Manufacturing and Quality in Western Europe the United States.” Geography (2006): 218-226.

Brenner, Joel Glenn. The emperors of chocolate: Inside the secret world of Hershey and Mars. Broadway, 2000. 48-55.

Graham, Caroline. “Too Sweet, Too Cheap and Full of Ghastly Chemicals – Why Even Americans Can’t Stand American Chocolate.” Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers Ltd., 21 Nov. 2009. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1229924/Too-sweet-cheap-ghastly-chemicals–Americans-stand-American-chocolate.html.

Martin, Carla. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” Class. Harvard University, Cambridge. 1 Apr. 2015. Lecture.

Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and The European Internalization Of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111.3 (2006): 660-91. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. http://ahr.oxfordjournals.org/content/111/3/660.full.pdf html.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press, 2001. 119, 126.

Terrio, Susan Jane. Crafting the culture and history of French chocolate. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. 1-40.

“Who Consumes the Most Chocolate?” CNN. 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 2 May 2015. http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/17/who-consumes-the-most-chocolate/

Wolke, Robert. “Chocolate by the Numbers.” The Washington Post. 9 June 2004. Web. 2 May 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24276-2004Jun8.html

Images Cited:

Figure 1: My personal IPhone at Cardullo’s and CVS

Figure 2: My personal IPhone at Cardullo’s and CVS

Figure 3: http://www.confectionerynews.com/Markets/Interactive-Map-Top-20-chocolate-consuming-nations-of-2012 (Accessed May 1, 2015)

Figure 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cgDAQXZ-LA (Accessed April 29, 2015)

You’re Not You When You’re Hungry: The Personality Based Approach of Snickers

Back in 2010, Snickers launched their “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign when they aired the following commercial at Super Bowl XLIV.  This started a series of personality-based ads that focused on individual characteristics and traits instead of traditional gender stereotypes, creating a more positive advertising environment.

Here we see a group of young men playing football, but one of the players turns out to be Golden Girl actress Betty White.  She’s struggling to keep up with the guys, and after a tackle, the group gathers for a huddle.  One of the players calls her “Mike” and says that he’s playing like Betty White out there.  Soon after, Betty White is shown unwrapping and eating a Snickers Bar, at which point White turns into a young twenty-something man like the rest of the team.  When asked if he feels better, he replies “Better.”  As the ad closes, we see another supposedly hungry player in the form of an elderly man being tackled after having possession of the ball.

When examining this ad, we see that Mars has taken special care to create a fairly equal gendered representation of the people in their hungry state.  Many chocolate advertisements place women in a bad light, painting them either as sexually or mentally crazed at the thought of chocolate.  Here, Snickers chose to focus on the perceived slowness of age instead of gender.  Both a man and a woman were presented as hungry and therefore ineffective at their task of playing football.  Instead of just turning into women when hungry and implying that this is some form of weakness, the actors simply transformed into someone else of advanced age.

We see this focus on “not being yourself” when hungry rather than gendered values repeated in many other advertisements for Snickers.  Below are two print ads showing athletes incorrectly setting up for action in a way that would cause them a loss.  The following video shows Godzilla being fun to be around until he gets hungry, at which point he becomes destructive.  In most of the advertisements that Snickers releases, the focus is on not acting as yourself and not behaving in the way you usually would in a typical situation.

You don’t act like this if you want to win

One reason for this may be that Mars has created a Global Marketing Code for Food, Chocolate, Confections, and Gum.  After a long section describing how Mars does not market to children under 12 years of age, the guidelines state that

“Advertising for our products should not depict or be placed in programs or media involving:

  1. Ethnic, racial, religious or sexual stereotyping or ridicule [or]
  2. Explicit sexual behavior or inappropriate sexual suggestiveness or innuendo.”(Mars Global Marketing Code)

By enumerating these practices into a code of ethics that is closely followed, Mars breaks away from many of the traditional and stereotypical tropes that are used when advertising chocolate.  This not only creates a more positive social atmosphere, but is beneficial to Mars as well.  By breaking into new territory, ads stand out more and as a result become more memorable and effective. (Harvard Business Review)

That’s why I would continue with the current line of advertising.

https://imgur.com/gSflt0k

In my own version here, President Obama sends some Snickers to Putin of Russia, claiming that he’s mean when he’s hungry and that people don’t like that.  After eating the candy bar, Putin feels better and says “Thanks Obama,” a popular part of current memes.  This continues on with Snickers’ current method of advertising, showing that when hungry, people don’t act like their normal, rational selves. They don’t think clearly and they act in unacceptable ways.  The implication is that by performing the simple act of sharing a Snickers bar, world leaders can help to create a more peaceful co-existence.  By extension this would also apply to the lives of everyday people around the world.  When you’re upset or not thinking straight, the ad wants you to take the proper steps to correct that (with their product of course).

When looking at the type of advertising that Mars releases for Snickers, we see that they have stuck to their Global Marketing Code and placed emphasis on personality traits rather than tired gender stereotypes.  Their current ads focus on how people can act when not at the top of their game, and how much of an impact that can have on their goals.  Instead of simply targeting an audience with the same old clichéd and sexist depictions of women, Snickers has embraced both genders, focused on personality, and created a highly effective and memorable campaign.

Works Cited

Werner Reinartz and Peter Saffert, “Creativity in Advertising: When It Works and When It Doesn’t,” Harvard Business Review June (2013), accessed April 12, 2015, https://hbr.org/2013/06/creativity-in-advertising-when-it-works-and-when-it-doesnt

“Mars Global Marketing Code for Food, Chocolate, Confections, and Gum,” accessed April 12, 2015, http://www.mars.com/global/assets/documents/MMC_Handbook.pdf.

Media Sources

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTPJYZLD6L8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcQ-gvOM9UE

http://payload107.cargocollective.com/1/7/226317/4455459/ooh_snickers11_1500_1500.jpg

https://imgur.com/gSflt0k

http://www.k-ting.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/snickers.jpg

https://qzprod.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/ap13031302755-vladimir-putin.jpg?w=700

https://timeglobalspin.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/int-putin-130517-e1368829192744.jpg?w=600

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/84/Barack_Obama_on_the_phone_in_the_Oval_Office_with_Ren%C3%A9_Pr%C3%A9val_2010-01-15.jpg

http://atlantablackstar.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Barack_Obama_Marck_Zuckerberg.jpg

https://cdn.thewire.com/img/upload/2012/11/01/obama%20wrong%20number%20small.jpg

“Advertisers are selling us something else besides consumer goods: they are selling us ourselves”

The evolution of chocolate production changed the way in which chocolate was available and advertised to the public. Historically, chocolate was known as a luxury item, only available to the elite, the rich, or those with connections to the trade. In the late 19th century, chocolate shifted from being provided in liquid form to a solid candy. As competition between chocolate confectioners increased, their outreach to attract customers shifted as well. The earliest known chocolate promotions were posters, sometimes detailed illustrations that took advantage of new advancements in lithography, graphic arts, and commercial advertising (Grivetti, p. 193).

chocolat ideal hot-chocolate

Members of the chocolate history group at the University of California, Davis spent two years searching and finding over 500 chocolate advertisements from 11 countries, during this period. In their synopses of the advertisements, similar themes repeat throughout:

  • Incorporation of children – especially young girls and infants (of both genders) – holding chocolate bars, playing games with chocolate, being mischievous
  • Most adults within the advertisements were women, either a mother or caretaker.
  • The mother-child relationship was highlighted: the mother was giving or receiving chocolate from a child, or having a ‘moment’ (drinking hot chocolate together) with their child
  • Most adults (primarily women) were portrayed as being from a higher socio-economic class
  • The health, energy, joyful benefits of consuming chocolate
  • Incorporating a sense of nationalism or romanticism in chocolate – people were portrayed in their traditional dress or courtship scenes included chocolate (Grivetti, pp. 193-198)

200 years later and the messaging in chocolate advertising is still the same. Again, as the narrative of chocolate – its history – has evolved, so have the connotations around its production, promotion, and purchase. Ellen Moore states it succinctly:

“The examination of chocolate companies’ advertisements allows a glimpse into how different identities – including gender, ethnic, and national – can be constructed through a consumption of chocolate. The stereotypes presented for the consumer through advertisements serve to reinforce cultural notions of ethnically homogenous British and U.S. national identity [while also concealing] the realities of chocolate production in Africa and Central America. The consumption of chocolate is thus almost exclusively associated with whiteness, while production is largely associated with exotic “Others”’ (Rubin, p. 67).

The advertisement below was created for the 2012 Super Bowl. It takes a unique perspective on the ‘other’ as it involves an interaction between people of white/European descent and an anthropomorphic entity – a piece of candy that has been given human characteristics. The traditional, stereotypical tropes around femininity and chocolate, as well as the racial disparity, are all more subtly apparent:

Ms. Brown, is the M&M ‘spokescandy’ highlighted under the tagline “not your average chocolate”.  This was her introduction. Until 2012, the only ‘female spokescandy’ was Miss Green, whose persona is vastly different. Miss Green is characterized as sensual and seductive, from her movements, to her voice, to the promotions in which she is seen. In contrast, Ms. Brown, titled the “Chief Chocolate Officer”, is portrayed as intelligent, well-spoken, and successful. Her appearance differs as well. Ms. Brown wears glasses and comfortable, what would be referred to in the business world as ‘no-nonsense’ heels. Her voice and persona seem to command respect.  The conversation she is having with her girlfriends at the party, before being interrupted, references a meeting with a head of State.

Ms. Brown, M&M Miss Green M&M

However, this promotion still slips into the stereotypical trends prevalent in chocolate advertising and societal gender dysfunctions. Before she is interrupted, the story that Ms. Brown is sharing highlights gender stereotypes around women’s place in business. Ms. Brown is heard saying “Mr. Prime Minister (PM), I’m flattered that you love chocolate, but I’m here strictly in a professional manner.” This infers that the PM was not focused on their business meeting but in making (sexual) advances to Ms. Brown; possibly because she is female or because – as we see a moment later from men at the party – he also assumed that she was ‘naked’.  This is similar to the harassment that women regularly receive in the workplace; further there is an allusion to the sexualization of an anthropomorphic being.

The interruption also implies the childishness of these men. They are snickering because of Ms. Browns supposed nudity. It is an oblique reference to the ‘sinful’ pleasure associated with chocolate, a fascination with the exotic, and the associations of sex already incorporated into chocolate mythology (Robertson, p. 68). However, in a crisp, condescending tone she acknowledges their assumption and corrects them. Then Red, a male M&M arrives, sees Ms. Brown, and removes his ‘clothing’. The ad ends with the song “Sexy and I Know It” playing, Red dancing, and Ms. Brown disgustedly looking on. Though the song is Red’s anthem and he too plays into the immature male persona; the advert and the chocolate promoted, is still a gendered product. While Ms. Brown is portrayed as a ‘modern, business woman’ this, and most advertisements, clearly imply the subjectivity of a female consumer. Women have been recognized as the gate-keepers of chocolate – the primary purchaser for themselves and their families, as well as the primary consumer (Cooper, 2004) so the advertising must strongly appeal to women. It is interesting that in this advert, that role has been fulfilled wholesale – our ‘woman’ is more than a purchaser or consumer, she is chocolate. Ms. Brown has become the ultimate ideal.

Further, this advert alludes to Moore’s earlier presumption that the primary identity of the chocolate consumer is white. Ms. Brown’s friends are white; in the background of the club, all of the attendees are white. Ms. Brown and Red are the only ‘beings of color’ at the event. This is a clear ethnic distinction and it can be assumed that this active construction of an ethnically homogenous chocolate consumer, is partially based within the history of chocolate and its early consumption by rich, white Europeans. Finally, in their appearance, from the figure flattering clothing to their jewelry, it can be assumed that their (her, her girlfriends and background people) socioeconomic background could be higher than middle class. The background music and ‘party atmosphere’ are more upscale and relaxed than the strobe lights and pounding music of a night club.

Sidney Mintz shares that “food choices and eating habits reveal distinctions of age, sex, status, culture, and even occupation” (Mintz, p. 3). These distinctions can be uniquely noted in this advertisement. They can also be turned on their head, as shown below:

This ‘twist’ on the M&M advertisement still acknowledges the atmosphere of friends getting together, but the norms have changed. The immaturity is missing; they are all of an age, enjoying their time together – eating, talking, possibly listening to a story. The friends are all mixed (gender and ethnicity) groups of (what could be) varying socioeconomic backgrounds. The new tagline ‘how do you eat your M&Ms?’ replaces ‘not your average chocolate’ to highlight the communal experience of enjoying M&Ms, instead of focusing on an anthropomorphic piece of candy with feminine characteristics that is possibly nude and unexpectedly intelligent.

The focus is more gender neutral, as no one member of a photo can be immediately sexualized and previous stereotypes of class, race, and national identity within an audience have been set aside. Finally, the song emphasizes the idea of “being friends” and not being “sexy and knowing it”.

References:

Cooper, Glenda. Women and Chocolate: Simply Made for Each Other. New York Times. 13 March 2004. Web. 09 April 2015. < http://www.cacao-chocolate.com/choclove/women.html >

Grivetti, Louise E. and Shapiro, Howard-Yana. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. Hoboken. 2009. Print.

History timeline. Mars Company Website. History. N.D. Web. 10 April 2015. < http://www.mars.com/global/about-mars/history.aspx >

Mintz, Sidney. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York. Penguin Press. 1985. Print.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press. 2010. Print.

Rubin, Lawrence C. Food for Thought: Essays on Eating and Culture. McFarland and Company Publishers. 2008. Print.

Multimedia resources:  

BestCodTrolls. M&Ms Super Bowl Commercial 2012 – I’m Sexy and I Know It. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 05 February 2012. Web. 8 April 2015. < https://youtu.be/Pc7BnT5X1tw >

Character photos. Ms. Brown and Miss Green. M&M. N.D. Web. 10 April 2015. < http://www.mms.com/#character >

Mucha, Alphonse. Chocolat Ideal, 1897. Web. 10 April 2015. < http://www.artnet.com/artists/alphonse-mucha/chocolat-ideal-a-fDVy2jZnfv6prLHLQxw8jg2 >

Nyree1luv. Friends: A Chocolate Production. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 10 April 2015. Web. 10 April 2015. < https://youtu.be/voUcekR2kfA >

Vintage 19th century French poster. Chocolat Delespaul-havez. N.D. Web. 10 April 2015 < http://www.museumoutlets.com/vintage-french-posters/chocolat-delespaul-havez-vintage-french-advertising-poster >